Alumni Spotlight: Class of 2020

by | Jan 31, 2021 | Alumni, Homepage News

Willow’s Class of 2020 had a very unconventional school year. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted many beloved Willow eighth grade traditions and projects, but the class persevered throughout it all. We reached out to members of the Class of 2020 to learn about their experiences at Willow and how they dealt with the unprecedented 2020 school year. Students had all sorts of different things to say about their time at Willow! We hope you enjoy hearing from our most recent graduating class.

Looking back now when it comes to your Willow experience, what are you most grateful for?

While many specifics were different for each person, nearly all graduates cited Willow’s supportive community. Some noted Willow’s amazing teachers who were always there to support them:

Class of 2020 grad and Willow’s middle school math teacher, Mr. Lyons, measure shadows outside.

“I am most grateful for the kind, caring, and understanding teachers and staff. My experience, I think, was unique because I felt like I had a real personal connection with my teachers. They were always ready to hear questions or concerns and guide me in the right direction.” – Nathaniel

I’m most grateful for the skills that my teachers taught me. The organizational skills, studying skills, and note-taking skills I learned are really important ones that I often use now.” – Mia R-D

“I am most grateful for the relationships I was able to create with my teachers and peers over my six years at Willow. I felt like my teachers cared about me on a personal level, not just as a student.” – Diana

Others spoke about the way that Willow’s supportive community changed the way they saw themselves:

“Being able to be a part of this community made me more confident and independent yet capable to work with others and lead others.” – Josie

“My classmates raised my confidence, supported me through all my endeavors, and gave me some of my happiest memories. I’m so glad I’m able to keep in touch with such a strong and tightly-knit community!” – Vy Lan 

“I am most grateful for attending a school with a supportive and friendly community that allowed me to focus on academics and relationships in a positive way without worrying about having to fit in.” – Bronwyn

Members of the Willow Class of 2020 with their eighth-grade banner.

How did what you learned at Willow – academically, socially, emotionally – prepare you for your first year of high school? Do you feel more prepared than your peers, and if so, how? 

Alumni from the Class of 2020 had all sorts of different things to say about how Willow prepared them for the vastly different and challenging world of high school. Some talked about the social benefits they experienced:

A Willow Class of 2020 grad leads a tour of the school during our Admissions Officers reception.

“I’m not afraid of rejection or of putting myself out there, which means I’m much more likely to make friends. I’m not scared to approach someone. I would rather go and be personable, and I think Willow did a good job teaching me that.” – Nathaniel

“Making friends – that’s a big one. On the first day of my high school orientation, I walked into that building and I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ But then I thought to myself, ‘Be me, and let’s just see what happens.’ After orientation, I walked out with some friends!” – Mia R-D

“Willow’s virtues program allowed me to make an easy transition between schools. I have already made several amazing friendships!” – Mia L

Many commented on how they manage their classwork much better than many of their high school classmates who did not attend Willow:

“I feel that I am more motivated, better at handling my stress, and better at not procrastinating compared to other students…The biggest thing I notice is that many people procrastinate while I do not because Willow taught me that way.” – Josie

“I really do feel more prepared, because while WIllow did teach us the right material, they also taught us good study and time-management habits. This is a big advantage in high school. This also helps a lot emotionally, because I am able to plan out my day and not have to worry about being stressed or overworked.” – Spencer

Class of 2020 grads discussing a prompt in Social Studies.

“I have learned how not to procrastinate, something that I know people in my school do. I have also learned the importance of asking teachers for help. I am not intimidated to speak to or email teachers when needed.” – Elise

Adding to what Elise said, in a response worth highlighting, 2020 grad Britney talked about how Willow gave her the incredibly important skill that is properly addressing teachers:

One of the most important things that Willow taught was self-advocating, which has been so helpful to me in high school. I actively engage with my teachers and am not afraid to speak up with questions or concerns.” – Britney

You had the weirdest spring semester ever! Was there any way that Willow helped you through that time or anything the school was able to do for your class to make up for missed celebrations that you appreciated?

Everyone from the class of 2020 seems to have appreciated the way that Willow made their eighth-grade year a celebration, despite all of the traditions that could not happen the way they usually do. Here are some highlights:

Class of 2020 grads (and dad!) during 8th Grade Drive-In Documentary Night.

Although we all missed some of the normal traditions, Willow helped make it fun still and make it feel like it was a big deal graduating.” – Madeline

“Willow did a lot, from having past teachers come in to talk to us and even come to our houses, to organizing an outdoor movie night and graduation. While there is no replacement for the experiences we would have had as eighth-graders, Willow really did a masterful job of replicating the events with the current circumstances in mind.” – Spencer

“I think that our 8th-grade graduation was put together so well considering the circumstances that we were in. I was so happy to be able to say goodbye in person to the people who I had gone to school with my entire life.” -Elise

“I loved when some of the teachers came to our houses with signs, trees, and books to celebrate our graduation!  It was also an incredible experience to have our 8th grade documentary night as a drive-in!” -Diana 

Thanks so much to all of the 2020 graduates who responded and shared their stories and insights with us. They are so strong for what they went through and the positive attitude they maintained throughout! We are so proud of you all!

Hear more about our students’ Willow experiences in their own words from their collaborative Graduation Speech last summer! Watch below:

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